Thursday, 29 November 2012

A postcard home

Dear him, A and P,

I am having an incredible time in Africa, the cicadas are screaming as I write and the sun is about to set, meaning it's time for a G & T - to fully appreciate the end of another beautiful day. We are exhausted from hours of riding horses through the bush, bumping into elephants and gadding about with giraffes. I have been moved to tears regularly and so want to show you Africa. I am sure you would all love her as I do, A you would adore the real life Flumpies and P, you would giggle with the Maasai and marvel in their jumping. Miss you all,
lots of love,
mum xxx

Thursday, 22 November 2012

I'm outta here

"I'm going to miss you A," I said as we drove to pick P up from school. She is still a bit poorly.

Long silence where I hoped the sentiment would be reciprocated. I eventually caved.

"Are you going to miss me?" I spoke tentatively.

"Er....No!" A replied.

"Oh that's good, that's good," I mumbled just a teeny weeny bit surprised with the answer, but also pleased that she is so relaxed about me going away for 10 day, yes 10 days. TEN DAYS.

As they sat in front of Cbeebies I cooked, cleaned, prepared, packed, wrote long lists of the incredibly complicated lives of the children - for him. I sorted their advent calenders out, cleaned out the fish, paid the gas bill, put the last load of washing on, showered and de-fuzzed, packed, checked my passport, ticket, passport, ticket, passport....

For tomorrow I return to Africa. To Nairobi to see E, my lovely friend from university. E moved to Africa to play polo, and work, but mainly for polo. So I am going to visit her to play polo too, and drink G & T's and catch up on lost time and probably giggle about times past. I can't frigging wait except it's not as easy as I thought it would be.

I'm going to Africa, that's a very long way from my little chickens and him. It's full of scary animals and crazy politics. I might catch a disease or get mugged. God, these things never used to bother me but fear has entered my life as I gallop towards 40, but probably mainly because I have a family now. I want to stay safe for them. I need to stay safe.

At the dinner table, as I cajoled P into eating, I asked, "Are you going to miss me?"

"NO!" came the very definite answer.

Right then, I will stop all this silly worrying and jolly well go and have the time of my life.

Are you ready E? Are you ready?

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Being tested

A has only eaten a spoonful of custard in 3 days. I have never felt a hotter human ever, she is like a furnace. Her ear is painful and her stomach is in spasms, with frequent liquid trips to the toilet. She is really very unwell and we have had to wait 36 hours for a doctors appointment. I have had to cancel all my jobs for the last 3 days, most of them unimportant some of them essential.

It is three sleeps until I get on an aeroplane to Nairobi. I feel like I am being tested right up until the last minute. Of course I want A to get better as she looks and feels awful, she's crying a lot and is so pale, but I also would like her to get better so I can go away with peace of mind and not be racked with mothers guilt.

I've also got a queasy feeling in my stomach. A sort of swirly, whirly feeling which is a bit bubbly. Please don't let me be sick. Please don't let me be sick. Please don't let me be sick. I don't think I can stand the waiting.

When we went to Cuba earlier this year we had similar pre-holiday panic. Another situation of will we? -  won't we? get on that plane. The trip which we had saved like crazy for, which we had looked forward to for 5 years, which cost far too much money, which we sacrificed for...

In February, just when we were about to depart the UK for an experience like no other, it snowed. Lots of snow. All flights were cancelled from Heathrow, but then the snow cleared about a day before we flew. And then the bloody French staff for Air France went on strike. Bloody striking French. The plane before us was cancelled, the plane after us was cancelled, but by some small miracle ours took off to Havana and we landed relieved - not caring less how we got home.

Monday, 19 November 2012


I need the outdoors, a lot. I have been inside for two days now, nursing a poorly child and I feel claustrophobic, dry from the indoor heat, a bit foetid and unclean. The sun has come up today, bright neon and as round as a lollipop, promising to thaw the light ground frost and provide a day to be happy about. I'm itching to get out there, to ride a horse and feel the sharp wind across my face, or plant the tulips which are still un-bought at the garden centre or go for a stroll to the garlic woods looking out for animal tracks and holly berries.

Sometimes just getting the logs in from the shed is enough to satisfy the outdoors urge. Walking up our tiny garden when its dimpsey, or even dark, the dusk is alive with noises and the air chilled, which feels pure, making me want to take great lung-fulls.

I am going to get close to big nature next week, I can hardly believe it. I almost don't want the experience to arrive as the anticipation is so thrilling. Off to Kenya to see a great friend, to ride with the giraffes, to feel small against the rawness of Africa and her wildness, and her majestic mountains.

I like Lord Byron's words a lot:

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Just one

A is off sick today. She's kind of sick and kind of not, she keeps sleeping, coughing, looks pale and wan. She didn't want to go to school which is very unusual for her so we hung out together and watched David Attenborough on the ipad. We saw male frogs giving birth to their young through their mouth and learnt that olms are as old as the dinosaurs and have no eyes at all. It's been an educational sort of morning for us both.


An olm

A is curled up on the sofa having her third sleep of the day after refusing even to eat chocolate, it got me thinking what it would be like to only have one child as I stroked her hair and hot forehead. I am not at all saying I would like just one child - but I can imagine how very different life would be, a more intense relationship perhaps. I often think what it would be like to have three children and even four, or what it would be like to have boys instead of girls, or a mixture of both.

I have loved being with A all alone today, not Love Bombing but spending quality time, talking and answering some very good questions of hers. When it's just one, I feel like I get to know my daughter better; her personality, her knowledge and what gives her a buzz - even when she is ill.

Today has just reminded me again of how important it is to spend time with one child at a time and how much we both get out of it. Get well soon A, but thank you for being poorly today.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

"Hurry up - we're late!"

Picture this. Every single school-day morning the kids are up at 6.30am bugging him in the bathroom and playing Jessie J on repeat. I get up later, after sifting through Twitter, maybe a peruse through Facebook, definitely checking my emails and maybe even answering a few. We might have a dance around the lounge, shake our bums to an African rhythm or act all bad-ass to some rap. The children get dressed independently,  I give them breakfast, make a strong coffee, contemplate the day and then suddenly it's eight bloody fifteen.

"Eat your breakfast, P for goodness sake how many times, put your food in your mouth and CHEW!"

"Hurry up, stop fiddling A, concentrate, go and clean your teeth. NOW!"

"We're late, oh my giddy god, we're late again, HURRY UP, for goodness sake P, get your coat on, please hurry up c'mon, c'mon,  c'mon..."

My poor children, every single day they have nice fun Mummy who then turns into a tyrant, shouting like a banshee, flying though the house like a whirling dervish and muttering profanities probably just a little bit too loud.

"Why don't you just get up 5 minutes earlier?" said A to me the other day, bursting into song.

You see, we used to see the same man, every day, when we dropped him off at the station early in the morning, running really fast for the train. We called him 'running man' and we squealed with delight watching him frantically paying for his parking, struggling to putting on his suit jacket, locking his car and pegging it to the platform. So we made a song up about him, and sang it very loudly when we saw him. I'm sure he heard us sometimes. It goes like this and must be sung to the tune of Phoebe from Friends singing 'Smelly Cat':

Running man! Running man!
You're late again
Running man! Running man!
You're gonna miss your train
Just get up five minutes earlier
Then you wont miss your train
Running man! Running man!
You're late again

Every day he could have saved himself this stress and just got up 5 minutes earlier. Maybe I should do the same.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Into the wild

Have you seen this film? Into the Wild?


It's long and sometimes indulgent, but I can't get it out of my head. We came late to it, being filmed in 2007, but I guess having babies puts pay to cinema trips and living in the countryside makes that virtually impossible. But I'm so glad we found it.

Although fidgeting through the two and a half hours of pretty much dialogue-free cinematography got me sighing and occasionally checking my watch, there were some truly soul searching moments. I'm not particularly looking for myself, I tried that once in India and found myself right there looking back at me. But the part of the film where the protagonist claims that the joy of life comes with new experiences got me shouting "YES! That's right! I've always said that, bugger your flat screen TV and labelled clothes, go down the beach in the winter, in the rain and feel the world."

"So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more dangerous to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man's living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun."

— Chris McCandless

I'm off to Africa in 10 days time. All by myself. With many new stories to tell on my return, I hope.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Don't tell me what to do

When I am old I shall not wear purple, like the poem, but be a woman in her 70's still wearing jeans, slogan tee-shirts and maybe a jaunty hat. I will, however, be less and less inclined to conform, to act like everyone else and I will NOT be told what to do.

The older I get (and goddamn it - I am cracking on now) the easier I seem to be wound up. The more cross I get at injustice, at process and protocol, at politics, at religion, at hierarchy and authority. Don't tell me what to do, unless it is for a very good reason and that there is plenty of evidence to back up why I need to do what you want me to do.

I am not inherently a rebel - more like a goody-two shoes and a swot in my younger years, so this bucking the trend, shouting against the system and daring to stand out doesn't come easy to me. But the older I become, the more irate and furious I feel, that it's actually hard to keep my mouth shut. I am that outspoken old lady who everyone rolls their eyes at and thinks "what's she banging on about now....?"

I get cross at my kids being told what to do. I leave them in the school playground full of barking orders. Be quiet. Stand in line. Do your exercises. Sit on the carpet. Cross your legs. Wear a uniform. Walk, don't run. Put your hand up. Be quiet. Do your maths. Be quiet. You'll go on the red. I SAID BE QUIET.

And when we had a homework meeting last week in school - so that we would be better equipped to help our children with phonemes, graphemes and split diagraphs (I know - look it up, what a nightmare), we all just nodded and did as we were told. Do this, do that and your child will read and spell miraculously. Really? WHY?

And no one could answer that. So I'm not going to do it.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Forgive me

It has been seven days since my last blog post.

You see I haven't had the Internet for seven days now and I am not enjoying going cold turkey from technology one little bit. I have not embraced living how we used to, reading books, calling directory enquiries or winging it to see if the library is open on a Wednesday - it's not.

I have missed this blog more than not being able to check my email, I've missed the blog more than twitter and Facebook combined, I have missed this blog more than all the other websites I regularly look at - even more than BBC weather.

I am sitting in a tiny cafe in Sussex, all cute with cupcakes, condensation and old ladies discussing their weekly nursing home quiz. No one wants to be with Elsie, who has dementia, not the obvious choice for a quiz team mate. How sad.

The WIFI is dodgey, the bacon has just fallen out of my baguette on to my lap, it will be a bloody miracle if this blog post gets published. Fuck, fuck, fuckety fuck.

Forgive me bloggers for I have no Internet. It has been seven days since my last blog post.

Friday, 2 November 2012


I'm going home today. Back to Sussex.

I've been at my mum's house all week having wonderful half-term adventures in the South West, with Granny and her dog. Although when I am in Sussex I talk of going 'home' as in coming home to Somerset. You see, I am one of the lucky few at the age of nearly 40, who still has her childhood home. My mum has lived in the same bungalow at the end of the track for over 38 years. The memories are strong and are all over the house and garden.

I help myself to coffee that has been in that cupboard for all my coffee-drinking life, the cheese biscuits still inhabit an old ice cream container from the 70's, the shower dribbles the same stream of water that got me ready for a night out in my teenage years and the swing stays still, rotten and hanging from the apple tree.

It's a privilege to be able to show my own children where I galloped my pony on the common and fell off every time he bent his head violently, to eat grass. I show them where I picked blackberries, where we played '1,2,3 in' and where my rabbit used to live. We take them to my childhood beaches and recreate games I used to play. It's evocative stuff.

As I travel to Sussex on the M25 today I will wonder if I am really going home, or if I am returning to a place where I am choosing to bring up my own family. And hopefully making beautiful childhood memories to boot.

Mum's garden in the summer